The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are to strengthen their existing cooperation to enhance the delivery of humanitarian services to the West African region.
The two organisations are reviewing the current partnership documents with a view to appraise the expansion of areas of collaboration and develop a plan of action for 2019.
At the opening of the two-Day joint consultative meeting on the 18th of March 2019 in Abuja, Nigeria, the ECOWAS Commission’s Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender Dr. Siga Fatima Jagne stated that there is need for improved synergy, timely intervention and effective delivery that will benefit both organisations and citizens of Member States in line with the ECOWAS Vision 2010.
The ECOWAS Commission, she noted, “places high premium on the collaboration with its partners since no organisation can function optimally without collaboration with relevant partners for maximum success”
Stressing that the meeting will also help to define joint strategies and approaches to effectively address existing and new challenges at both national and regional levels, Commissioner Jagne opined that the endeavour is expected to significantly raise the standard of living of the people “through conscious and inclusive programmes that will guarantee a bright future for West Africa and shape the destiny of the region”
Since the establishment of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by both bodies in 2001, the partnership has helped in the facilitation of post conflict reintegration of returnees in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Guinea Bissau, the establishment and capacity building of the ECOWAS Emergency Response Team (EERT).
There has also been the promotion of ratification, domestication and implementation of the African Union Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) in Africa, facilitation of effective local integration of thousands of refugees under the ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Rights of Residence and Establishment as well as the adoption and promotion of the Abidjan Declaration and the Banjul Plan of Action on the eradication of statelessness.
Commissioner Jagne however maintained that despite the positive strides made, emerging issues such as terrorism, climate change/global warming and mixed migration in the ECOWAS region including the scale and incidence of humanitarian emergencies and their impact on ECOWAS citizens, have rendered the humanitarian terrain more difficult.
This reality, she emphasised, necessitates the strengthening and broadening of the ECOWAS/UNHCR partnership in order to effectively deal with the issues.
Also speaking, the UNHCR Representative to Nigerian and ECOWAS Mr Antonio Canhandula represented by Mrs Brigitte Mukanga-Eno noted that the signing of the existing multi sectorial MoU, has yielded “good and tangible results”.
She however noted that based on the role of Society and the No One Behind principle, the UNHCR is favourably disposed to the extension of the collaboration beyond the Directorate of Humanitarian and Social Affairs, to involve all relevant Departments/Directorates of ECOWAS “in order to effectively deliver on areas of concern to UNHRC” as well as the already identified Cross cutting set objectives.